Putin Says Ukraine’s Future Is Uncertain: NPR


An elderly woman is assisted crossing the Irpin River, under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, as civilians flee the town of Irpin, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Vadim Ghirda/AP


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Putin Says Ukraine's Future Is Uncertain: NPR

An elderly woman is assisted crossing the Irpin River, under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, as civilians flee the town of Irpin, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Vadim Ghirda/AP

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Saturday that Ukraine’s statehood was in jeopardy and likened Western sanctions against Russia to a “declaration of war,” while a ceasefire -The promised fire in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol collapsed amid scenes of terror.

As the Kremlin’s rhetoric grew increasingly fierce and a reprieve in the fighting dissolved, Russian troops continued to shell encircled towns and the number of Ukrainians driven from their country rose to 1.4 million. Overnight, Russian forces had stepped up their shelling of Mariupol, while also dropping powerful bombs on residential areas in Chernihiv, a town north of Kiev, Ukrainian officials said.

Bereaved mothers mourned slain children, injured soldiers were fitted with tourniquets and doctors worked by the light of their cellphones as sadness and despair gripped. Crowds of men lined up in the capital to join the Ukrainian army.

The government has ordered men between the ages of 18 and 60 to stay and be available to fight. Some, like Volodymyr Onysko, volunteered.

“We know why we are here. We know why we are defending our country,” Onysko told Britain’s Sky News. “We know what we’re doing, and that’s why we’re going to win.”

Putin continued to blame the war on Ukraine’s leadership and criticized their resistance to invasion.

“If they continue to do what they are doing, they are calling into question the future of the Ukrainian state,” he said. “And if that happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”

He also denounced Western sanctions which have crippled the Russian economy and caused the value of its currency to plummet.

“These sanctions that are being imposed are akin to a declaration of war,” he said in a televised meeting with flight attendants from Russian airline Aeroflot. “But thank God we haven’t got there yet.”

Russia’s financial system suffered another blow when Mastercard and Visa announced they were suspending operations in the country.

Ten days after Russian forces invaded, the struggle to enforce temporary ceasefires in Mariupol and the eastern town of Volnovakha has shown the fragility of efforts to stop fighting across Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said artillery fire and Russian airstrikes prevented residents from leaving before agreed evacuations began. Putin accused Ukraine of sabotaging the effort.

A third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine will take place on Monday, according to Davyd Arakhamia, a member of the Ukrainian delegation. He gave no further details, including where they would take place.

Previous meetings took place in Belarus and led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement aimed at creating humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of children, women and the elderly from besieged cities, where pharmacies have run out, hundreds of thousands of people are facing food and water shortages, and the injured have succumbed to their injuries.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said thousands of residents had gathered to get out of the city of 430,000 people safely when the shelling began and the evacuation was halted. Later that day, he said the attack got even worse.

“The city is in a very, very difficult state of siege,” Boychenko told Ukrainian television. “Relentless shelling of residential blocks continues, planes drop bombs on residential areas. Russian occupiers use heavy artillery, including Grad multiple rocket launchers.”

Russia has made significant advances in the south, seeking to cut off Ukraine’s access to the sea. The capture of Mariupol could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

Meanwhile, the head of the Chernihiv region said Russia had dropped powerful bombs on residential areas in the city of the same name, which has a population of 290,000. Vyacheslav Chaus posted a photo online of what he said was an unexploded FAB-500, a 1,100 pound (500 kilogram) bomb.

“Usually this weapon is used against military-industrial installations and fortified structures,” Chaus said.

In an address to Ukrainians, President Volodymyr Zelensky highlighted “the 500-kilogram bombs that were dropped on the homes of Ukrainians. what Russia did.”

Putin Says Ukraine's Future Is Uncertain: NPR

Ukrainian servicemen carry a stroller after crossing the Irpin River on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike.

Vadim Ghirda/AP


hide caption

toggle caption

Vadim Ghirda/AP

Putin Says Ukraine's Future Is Uncertain: NPR

Ukrainian servicemen carry a stroller after crossing the Irpin River on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike.

Vadim Ghirda/AP

The West has largely backed Ukraine, offering aid and arms and hitting Russia with sweeping sanctions. But the fight itself was left to the Ukrainians, who expressed a mixture of brave determination and discouragement.

“Ukraine is bleeding,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a video released on Saturday, “but Ukraine has not fallen.”

Russian troops have advanced on a third nuclear power plant, having already taken control of one of four operating in the country and the closed Chernobyl plant, Zelenskyy told US lawmakers.

Zelenskyy pleaded with lawmakers for additional aid, especially fighter jets to help secure the skies over Ukraine, even as he insisted Russia was being defeated .

“We are inflicting casualties on the occupiers that they couldn’t see in their worst nightmare,” Zelenskyy said.

Russian troops took control of the southern port city of Kherson this week. Despite encircling Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy, Ukrainian forces managed to retain control of key towns in central and southeastern Ukraine, Zelenskyy said.

US President Joe Biden called Zelenskyy early Sunday Kiev time to discuss sanctions on Russia and accelerating US aid to Ukraine. The White House said the conversation also covered talks between Russia and Ukraine, but did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Poland to meet the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, a day after attending a NATO meeting in Brussels where the alliance will is committed to strengthening its support for members of the eastern flank.

Blinken also spoke by phone with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said Beijing opposes any move that “adds fuel to the fire” in Ukraine, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. . Blinken said the world is watching to see which nations stand up for freedom and sovereignty, the State Department said.

In Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Putin in the Kremlin. Israel has good relations with Russia and Ukraine, and Bennett offered to act as a broker in the dispute, but no details of the meeting immediately emerged. Bennett’s office said he spoke with Zelenskyy twice afterward.

In the wake of Western sanctions, Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship national carrier, announced plans to halt all international flights except to Belarus from Tuesday.

The death toll from the conflict was difficult to measure. The UN human rights office said at least 351 civilians have been killed since the February 24 invasion, but the true number is likely much higher.

Ukraine’s army is vastly outmatched by Russia’s, but its professional and volunteer forces have fought back with fierce tenacity. Even in the fallen cities there were signs of resistance.

Onlookers in Chernihiv cheered as they watched a Russian military plane fall from the sky and crash, according to video released by the Ukrainian government. In Kherson, hundreds of protesters waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and shouted, “Go home.”

A large Russian armored column threatening the Ukrainian capital remained stuck outside Kiev. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said in the afternoon that the military situation was generally calmer and that Russian forces had “not taken active actions since the morning”.

The US Congress is considering a request for $10 billion in emergency funding for humanitarian assistance and security needs. The UN has said it will increase its humanitarian operations inside and outside Ukraine, and the Security Council has scheduled a meeting on Monday on the worsening situation.

The United Nations World Food Program has warned of a looming hunger crisis in Ukraine, a major global supplier of wheat, saying millions of people will need food aid “immediately”.

Kiev’s central train station remained crowded with people desperate to flee. “People just want to live,” said one woman, Ksenia.


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